Explorer has at last been released by Electric Oreams.
Programmed by RamJam, it is a technical tour de force but, unfortunately, beneath all the coding, there isn't that much of a game.
The plot is very basic. You're a space pilot whose ship has just crashed on the 'emerald planet'. While skimming the atmosphere, various bits of your spacecraft have been distributed in widely scattered locations. To rebuild your craft and escape, you have to find all the missing parts.
By far and away the best thing about the game is the graphics, which are really quite superb. Effectively, there are two graphic 'modes' - one for when you are in the air, the other for when you are moving on the ground.
From the air, you see a map of a section of the planet, arranged in a square grid.
On the ground, you get a view of the scenery in front of you, similar to the one you get in Lords of Midnight, only far more detailed and impressive.
Unfortunately, the very detail is a major problem.
In Midnight , the graphics were simple, but every view was different. It was possible once you'd played the game for a while, to recognise places. In Explorer, the views are incredibly detailed but it is almost impossible to tell them apart. One jungle scene looks very much like another, I'm afraid to say. It looks like somebody has spent an awful lot of time detailing half a dozen basic scenes, which are then cut up jig-saw fashion and re-mixed and repeated ad infinitum.
How then, can you possibly find your missing bits and pieces? Well, when you're close enough to one of them - within easy walking distance, though I haven't the faintest idea how far that is - you can get a compass direction on it. Then it's just a matter of getting there.
Effectively, though, that's all the game involves - taking a series of bearings and using triangulation to find the various bits and bobs you need.
Fine, so every so often you get attacked by a 'robotic bug' which you have to kill - but frankly the standard of animation of the bug is so poor compared to the static graphics that you wonder why anyone bothered with them. They look like a desperate last minute attempt to inject some action into a by-then almost finished program.
Movement otherwise is pretty simple: there is a compass bearing given in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Left and right joystick movements move you about 12 degrees either way. forward moves you forward, and back turns you 180 degrees so you face the other way.
Pressing U takes you up 1,000 feet, and D takes you down the same amount. You land on the square at the exact centre of the screen, so you have to be careful you don't land on any trees. When you're in the air, up takes you north, down takes you south, and left and right take you west and east.
On the ground, if you hit the space bar you get a menu of options on the top left of the screen. Hit the highlighted letter and whatever you have chosen will happen. B drops a beacon, D gives you the bearing of any objects within range. F lets you fire at things and so on.
I found it really difficult to know what to make of Explorer.
The static graphics are absolutely superb - easily some of the best around on the Spectrum. But the gameplay is sadly lacking in originality or really that much interest.
On the other hand, I can see that it would appeal to a certain type of gamer, who likes a logical, step by step challenge.
Let's face it, it's basically computerised orienteering, which means all the fun of map reading without any worries about having to wrap up warm and keep your feet dry.
Label: Electric Dreams
Author: Ram Jam
Reviewer: Gary Rook
Graphically brilliant- but with very little gameplay. Programmers got carried away by the technique and forgot the game.